“Have you heard of the term ‘green-hushing’?” I asked the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company Kermitted Asset Management when we caught up the other day. “Heard of it?” he snorted. “I invented it. And I would have thought its meaning was self-evident – it’s when you make such a big deal of your green credentials nobody dares question whether they have any basis in reality and so stays quiet.”
“That’s not quite how it was explained to me when I came across it a week or two back,” I demurred. “My understanding is it was more a way of describing companies that not so long ago were trumpeting their commitment to ESG considerations to the heavens but, now they are finding the doing bit a whole lot more complicated than the talking, they have all gone very, very quiet.”
Read more from the chairman (if you have nothing better to do): All coming out in the wash
“Oh, do try and speak more clearly,” said the chairman, without missing a beat. “I thought you said ‘green-shushing’. ‘Green-hushing’, which I confess is not one of mine, is of course as you say – and there is a lot of it about. To be fair, it’s not just the difficulty of turning fine words into good deeds – don’t forget businesses are like people in that they struggle to keep more than two or three big concerns front-and-centre at any one time.
“And there are some pretty big concerns around and about at the moment – war, inflation, global recession and so forth – competing with ESG for everyone’s attention. Then, for asset managers specifically, there is the added wrinkle of ESG funds being a tough old sell because of recent performance, which has certainly been sorting the organic wheat from the genetically-modified chaff of late.
“Plus, like we both mentioned, actually following through on all the pledges everyone was merrily promising amid all the excitement of COP26 in Glasgow – it’s really tough.” “And yet Kermitted remains firmly in your ‘organic wheat’ camp, holding to the path of the true believer, come what may?” I observed, trying – and probably failing – to make my question sound neutral.
“Good grief – you must be joking,” exclaimed the chairman. “Don’t get me wrong: this planet needs some serious environmental answers and asset management can play a key role – but much of the current debate is frankly delusional. Anyone who thinks about this for more than five minutes knows we don’t hit any climate targets without bring the developing world along for the ride.
“Unless, that is, people are seriously suggesting we ask half the global population to go back to the Stone Age and hope nobody makes a fuss. I say, again, this is very, very difficult – but it is precisely why I have developed the aforementioned Green-shushing policy for Kermitted: rather than going quiet on ESG like so many others have been doing, we will be doubling down and shouting even louder about our greenness.
“To my mind, it’s Kermitted’s best hope of persuading anyone expecting businesses actually to follow through on ‘green-bluster’ to go and pick on somebody else. The main plank of this policy is what I like to call ‘Green-timidation’, which is essentially a shock-and-awe stats-blitz of all the problems facing this planet and its population and the unarguable conclusion Something Must Be Done.
“In this, I am finding science-based targets especially helpful as the great majority of people tend to take them at face value and assume they cover a multitude of meticulous and rational benchmarks. When mostly, if you dig a little deeper, companies tend to use the term to mean they’ll try and take actions that are consistent with hitting Net Zero by 2050, which is perhaps not worth the recycled paper it is printed on.
“Anyway, if our Green-timidating wall of data and figures and science doesn’t send people running for the hills, well and truly shushed, we wheel out all the most unpleasant, upsetting and generally horrifying facts we have kept especially in reserve.” “Let me guess,” I interrupted. “Green-grossing?” “Quite so,” nodded the chairman. “And if that doesn’t achieve the desired effect, I just sit people down and talk them slowly through the issues in my most patronising and condescending manner.” “Ah, greensplaining,” I shuddered, rising to leave.